Patriarch Irinej suggests using Hagia Sophia as museum, church and mosque

The Church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Photo:

Serbian Patriarch Irinej believes that the alternative for the future is not the confrontation of Christianity and Islam but peace among their believers.

On July 13, 2020, the Primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, turned to the Turkish authorities with a proposal to use Hagia Sophia as a museum, a church and a mosque, reports the SOC’s official website.

He recalled that “Hagia Sophia was the Christian church for more than nine centuries and the mosque for more than five centuries”. The Serbian hierarch highlighted that “due to its architecture and fresco painting it is one of the most important cultural monuments and monuments of mankind’s spiritual heritage, protected by UNESCO”.

The Patriarch stressed that “its importance is not just in its artistic and cultural value. It is, first of all, for all the Christians, Orthodox and the other ones, an important shrine, witness to and source of authentic spirituality”.

At the same time, the Serbian Primate noted that “it was and has been the place of centuries-long prayerful life and inspiration to Muslim faithful as well”.

“Thus it is no wonder that Kemal Pasha Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey and witness to the long historical coexistence of Muslims and Christians, found a sensible compromising solution – certainly having in mind the stated facts – to turn this church into the museum, open for everybody and everyone, whereby none of the faithful, either Christians or Muslims, was deprived of the possibility to pray to the Lord silently, in the spirit of his personal faith and tradition,” said Patriarch Irinej.

Consequently, he stated, “we consider the cancellation of Atatürk’s decision and unilateral reconverting of Hagia Sophia into a mosque to be not only a historical injustice but also a rush and unnecessary political movement, detrimental both to the international image of Turkey in the world and to the relations and trust between Christians and Muslims in the world”.

In his opinion, “it is clear to everyone that the alternative for the future is not an artificially induced confrontation of two greatest world religions, Christianity and Islam, but peace amongst their believers, or better say: not only peace or just tolerance but also mutual respect, as well as dialogue and cooperation in everything that serves the general benefit of people and peoples, without jeopardising anybody’s religious and cultural identity”.

The head of the SOC believes that the temple itself is spacious enough to provide space or everybody to worship without hindrance. Moreover, he emphasized that such a solution would not be a precedent in the modern world since in Jerusalem and at the Sinai there are the holy places for the believers of both religions, “testifying of historical symbiosis, tolerance and trust between the neighbours”.

The Serbian Patriarch appealed to the President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “to refrain from his intention and to retain status quo regarding Hagia Sophia’s status”.

“It is not yet late for that. Such an activity would be an honourable act on his behalf, and it would be of great comfort and satisfaction to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, his Church and the Roman community in Turkey, who all are in pain and grief because of the decision. And finally, it would bring approval, trust and congratulations to the modern Turkey from the entire cultural public all around the globe,” resumed Patriarch Irinej of Serbia.

Earlier, the UOJ wrote that according to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’, the threat to Hagia Sophia is a threat to the entire Christian civilization.  


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